BAR HARBOR — The option agreement for the town to purchase the former international ferry terminal on Eden Street from the state contains a “clawback” provision in case the town fails to develop the property for an acceptable maritime use.
On Tuesday, the Town Council approved an amendment to the option agreement between the town and the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) that would protect the town from potential financial loss in the case of such a “clawback.”
DOT officials have not yet agreed to the change.
Deputy Commissioner Jon Nass wrote in a July memo that the language of the agreement was ambiguous.
“We do understand … that the agreement as written has left open some interpretations that the state could hold the property (instead of sell), leaving the town without the ability to recoup some, or all, of the purchase price.” Nass wrote.
“As such, we are willing negotiate an amendment to clarify that the state [would either] sell the property for fair market value, or repay the town of Bar Harbor for the town’s purchase price investment if the state [chooses to] use the property for its own purposes.”
The current option agreement offers the property for three prices with different contingencies.
The lowest price, $2 million, requires a “maritime transportation” business plan to be ready for the property by Nov. 31.
The second price, $2.5 million, has a longer timetable, but still requires a maritime transportation use for the property.
“We just need to have transportation use in five years,” Knight said. “It needs to be approved by Maine DOT.”
The third price is $3.5 million with no use restrictions.
Town Councilor Gary Friedmann said that recommendations from the ferry terminal advisory committee and subcommittees would come in early November — too late for a business plan to be developed by Nov. 31. So the first, lowest price option is essentially off the table.
There is still no set definition for “maritime transportation” from the DOT, but Nass’ email said that the DOT would work with the town to clarify the definition.
Town Councilor Paul Paradis told the Islander that the DOT and Bar Harbor were always on “the same page,” and there was no attempt to deceive with “holes” in the option agreement.
Paradis said at the meeting that the town should formulate a plan before the annual town meeting in June 2018.
“We will have to make a decision before we have a business plan,” Paradis said. He said voters are not likely to approve a bond issue without a business plan in place, though.